The night before Nick Anzalone’s first start at quarterback for Lindenhurst left him a little restless, but after his opening performance, it may be opposing defenders tossing and turning as the season goes on.
Anzalone set the bar quite high in his first varsity start, completing 21 of 24 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-7 opening victory over host Northport in Suffolk I football, and has been named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
“I could not sleep for anything,” Anzalone said. “I tried to go to bed at like 11, woke up at like 1. The nerves were there and everything.”
He woke up again at 3 and 6 a.m. before deciding to start his day. It was the moment the senior waited for since his sophomore year, backing up and learning from starters Ryan Hoffman and Austin Perry.
“Just watching Ryan, I always wanted that to be me,” Anzalone said. “Watching Austin, I just couldn’t wait for it to finally be my chance and show everybody what I can do.”
Anzalone said he felt a little nervous on the bus ride to the field, but quickly settled in once the game started. He credits much of his performance to Lindenhurst’s complement of playmakers like Jeremy Ruckert, Ricky Conway, Justin Zotto and Dilon Smith, and his coaches for a strong game plan.
“I think we have the best receiving corps in the county, possibly on the Island,” Anzalone said. “They’re open even when they’re not open, so it makes my job a whole lot easier just knowing that if I just somehow get the ball in their vicinity, they are going to come down with it.”
Coach Nick Lombardo had little doubts about Anzalone’s abilities, saying it was just a matter of the senior getting his turn to command the offense. “He’s got excellent arm strength, so for us, it was just a matter of seeing him do it in a game,” Lombardo said. “That’s really what it comes down to . . . It’s not his fault, he just hasn’t had the opportunity. But given the opportunity against Northport, he certainly produced very positive results.”
And Anzalone has a high standard to play up to, as Lindenhurst didn’t lose a regular-season game in the previous two seasons. But the Bulldogs failed to win a championship those years, something the players haven’t forgotten.
“We talk about it every day,” Anzalone said. “That’s our No. 1 motivation in practice every day. The second we are done with warmups, that’s what we’re talking about.”
Anzalone hopes to be the quarterback to guide the Bulldogs to a title and with the confidence gained from his first start, he expects an easier night of rest before the Bulldogs’ next contest.
“Definitely,” Anzalone said. “I hope so at least.”